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Advice on taking a hard class


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I've had to take the intermediate class at my studio ever since they cancelled the beginning question. A lot of the center work is simply too hard for me and I was wondering, is it better to observe or to attempt to flub my way through it?

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I'll second the question, and look forward to hearing what our resident gurus say...


I asked my teacher this because now two of the three classes that I take per week are

over my head, and one is usually (depending on who shows up) WAY over my head.

Of course, I was worried about me being there, and flubbing things up, was somehow

slowing the class down, etc. (I'm careful not to ask questions that derail the class, etc,

but I still worried about it) Anyway, here's what he said:


1) In his opinion, it's good to have at least one class a week that is over your head,

to kind of push you down the road, and one that is a little too easy, to give you the

breathing room to revisit the basics in detail. And then one which is "just right".

This kind of made me feel like goldilocks :)


But, if for class/schedule reasons you are in over your head a lot, it can be a problem.

If you can't change your schedule, then remember:


2) If you are in a too hard class for a while, work on the parts you can do, and challenge yourself to

try something new, but don't be too rough on yourself.


So, on long/tough floor combinations I do what I can, or what I remember, and sometimes I

just go blank, but then I can pick it up again when my memory or body start working again :D

My teacher (I think) understands this, and gives me corrections fitted to my inexpertise, but

doesn't slow the class down for me (thank goodness or I would die of embarassment) but he

does sometimes say "You do this instead of that"


One last thing -- you know, it used to mortify me to be in a class over my head -- I was

worried that my screwups were noticed by everyone, and I felt ashamed to be there. But

you know what? Now, sometimes, there are folks less experienced than I in one of my classes,

and their mistakes don't bother me at all... So, the moral of the story (for me) was to risk

absurdity, because we ALL have to start somewhere! :wink: Good luck!

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1) In his opinion, it's good to have at least one class a week that is over your head,

to kind of push you down the road, and one that is a little too easy, to give you the

breathing room to revisit the basics in detail. And then one which is "just right".

This kind of made me feel like goldilocks 


So true, especially when you feel that your coverage/mastery/recollection of the basics is lacking. The harder classes push you (which a progressive program for kids does, but there's a whole other thread on that!) and also expose you to better dancers, from whom you can learn a lot.


Oh, and I think it's best to blunder through as best you can as long as you're not becoming a road hazard. :-)

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I actually have a question about this for the teachers: my only concern about taking a harder class in a group environment is not about goofing up in front of every one but about loosing/sacrificing technique which is so hard to acquire in order to keep up with a faster tempo. For the few times I have taken a group class that was way over my level, I simply found that I was sacrificing technique too much in order to keep up and then wondered what real benefits I did get out of that class. Sorry Swiss Chard if this doesn't answer your question...But this came to my mind as I was reading your post. Thanks.

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A lot of good points here. But I disagree about not asking any questions for fear of holding a class back. If you don't ask questions you risk as Sylphide said sacrificing technique. I ask questions when I need to. I find there are usually one or two other people in the class who would like to have asked the same questions but were embarassed to speak up in front of the group.


When I'm in new classes or classes above my head, I hold off until I'm comfortable in the class. One of the classes I took last week offers little if anything in the way of corrections regardless of whos there. I didn't bother with questions in that class because the tone of the class leaned toward "We know what we're doing. Don't bother correcting us." That said the bulk of the class could have used a lot of corrections.


I think its more a matter of knowing when not to cross a line by asking too many questions or over-analyzing something to death. Theres one woman in my regular classes who simply asks too many questions. It does slow us down. The teacher has taken to telling her they can discuss it after class is over or making the answers very short.


I think you have nothing to lose by asking.


I do however think too many classes that are consistently beyond your abilities is a problem. For me, I have to see steady improvement to keep myself motivated. If I was constantly leaving class feeling like it was too hard I'd never last. I have a regular mix of intermediate and advanced beginning level classes. The advanced beginning allows me to focus on technique and strenghtening while the intermediate allows me to push myself with timing and combinations.


It sounds like your teacher is aware of your situation. I liked his answers.

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You can always simplify the exercise as well - like miss out the doubles or the beats...

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(Boy, I tell you some day's it feels like they're all too hard! :) )


I struggle with the question of "what am I getting out of this "intermediate" class" a lot, and realized only recently that as a result (I think) of taking those too-hard-for me classes that I have gotten much, much better at picking up a combination and then actually executing it correctly (by which I mostly mean: the right steps in the right order).


While my rotation, arm carriage, epaulment, stretched legs may suffer in that class, my brain-muscle connections are improving. Then I can go back to my comfort level class and hammer away at all the basics.


My intuition is that there are a lot of things you can ONLY learn by taking a class that's too hard for you.


(I have to say though, that I prefer my companions not be dazzlingly good--not because they upset/intimidate me, but because I totally space out and spend all class watching them instead of working. "Ooh, is THAT how you're s'posed to look?")


Oh, and on the original question? I stand in the back and flub away. I also found when I first made the switch that writing down combinations (or as much as I could remember helped a lot--not only if we repeated them, but even in picking up the new ones. Plus it's cool to look back and see "Blah blah blah; totally clobbered this petite allegro, I am NEVER going to get this," dated sometime in February and realize that I did that tonight and wasn't too shabby.

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This is interesting folks -- thanks for the observations!


I liked your comments/concerns Sylphide and 2LeftFeet about technique

in classes that are above your level... I had wondered about this, but not

asked about it and I will tonight. By the way, I do actually ask questions when

I most need it, but I try to filter myself so as not to be as rambling and blabby

as normal, and not intrude. Maybe I should relax the reins a bit there, though.


One thing I like about tackling (metaphorically :wink: ) tougher combinations

in harder classes is that there are moments for me where it starts to feel more

fluid and less about individual steps... especially when I've been (as Kate suggests)

simplifying things to match my level. It's a pleasant inkling of what I hope

is to come as I learn more how to put various (and complete) steps together into dancing.


Finally, Koshka -- I really LOVED your comment about blundering through,

but not being a road hazard! You inspired me to get/make myself a white tee shirt

with one of those orange or yellow hazard roadsign logos on it. :)

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Something else to think about:


Everyone in class is just as busy as you are with the work.

People always pay less attention to us than we think! :shrug:


By all means, ask questions! You pay just as much for that class as anybody else and everyone can use the review.

If they groan (yes it has happened to me!!!) just tell them you are trying to learn so you can dance as well as they do-it'll shut'em right up!


And finally, amend the combinations like Kate B suggested:

At the barre, don't do the excercises en releve, just repeat a terre.

Slow the combinations down to half tempo.

Don't lift your leg as high.

Don't hold positions as long- You get the picture.


In the center, don't do turns, just do the position without turning.

For example, Pique turns.

Just do piques without turning across the floor.

Stay towards the back of the classroom when going across so you don't slow anyone else down.

Any other questions, ask to leave a note for the teacher and request a short meeting to have them give you suggestions to modify the excercises. :wink:


Clara :)

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Finally, Koshka -- I really LOVED your comment about blundering through,

but not being a road hazard! You inspired me to get/make myself a white tee shirt


I have been on both sides of the equation (easier classes, "just right", harder) and as far as I can tell, nobody cares if you are doing badly but it really is annoying and possibly even dangerous to others if you become a road hazard. Same for hard stuff where you might topple over if you really go for it--just try not to take anyone else down with you!


Oh, and my sense is that for adults in a place where there is no proper progressive (adult) curriculum, the closest approximation is the multi-level approach.

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Taking classes out of my comfort range has definitely improved my ability to remember combinations. I've also picked up on steps that tend to lead into other steps over time, making it far easier to remember them. I remember early on thinking "How on earth do people remember all of grand allegro?" So definitely flub along in back because eventually you'll be in the center, then front and center doing combinations with no problem.

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Wow, this thread certainly brings back some embarassing memories! From my experience, one thing I'd say is definitely try to talk to the teacher for a few moments before class to let him or her know that you think the class will probably be a little advanced for you, especially if you plan to skip a part if you feel is too hard. I once got screamed at by a teacher in a huge class that I was taking for the first time for trying to sit out for one combination... I received about a five minute lecture in front of the entire class, delivered at top volume, about how her class was not a spectator activity and that she expected everyone to at least try every combination. Believe me, that was much more embarassing than screwing up the combination!

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Thank you all for your replies. I did talk to the teacher and he is very understanding. My primary problem is that this is the only class I'm taking and I've only had 2.5 months of very basic training. I just wasn't sure if it was rude of me to sit out last week when the combination was balance, balance, something or other, assemble, something or other, saut de chat, repeat in the opposite direction (as you can tell, I couldn't figure out what some bits of the combination were and I've never done a saut de chat). I felt kind of strange standing there watching, but didn't think I could even remotely do the combination justice.

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Wow, this thread certainly brings back some embarassing memories! ... I once got screamed at by a teacher in a huge class that I was taking for the first time for trying to sit out for one combination...

Oh my... that sounds like not just a "hard class" but an impossible one.

What a mean-spirited thing for your teacher to do! Coming into a class

for the first time is stressful ANYWAY, without having to deal with

such an egotist. But your advice about getting things clear up front is

well-taken; I've had a couple of talks with my teachers and we understand

each other pretty well on what my goals are for class, and especially in

the circumstance of me having to attend classes over my head.


Oh, and thanks for the suggestions, Clara! I've already found my place

in the back of the class, and I have done several of those at various

times as needed -- except for the "not lifting your leg so high" which is

pretty much my natural modus operandi. (I'm reminded of that line from Chariots

of Fire -- "You canna put in what god left out" ) :dry:


Thanks again, folks... your advice and experience is a huge help.

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You are so welcome, DreadPirateRoberts! :grinning:


I love your screen name btw!


Clara :pinch:

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